Saturday, March 16, 2019

Week in review (3/10 to 3/16)

The Gulf Coast aerospace corridor has a lot of unique military operations, and one of them is the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Northwest Florida.

Hurlburt’s 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st Special Operations Wing, has received an upgraded version of its powerful gunship, the Block 30 model of AC-130J Ghostrider.

The 4th SOS, the Air Force’s most deployed squadron, currently uses the AC-130U Spooky, which is gradually being retired from active duty after more than 20 years of operation.

The new model will be used in the same role as the current one: close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance, but it has upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a Precision Strike Package that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons.

It also costs less to operate per flying hour because of upgraded turboprop engines. (Post)

The AC-130 has its weapons mounted to fire from the port side of the fuselage. During an attack, the gunship does a pylon turn – banking in a large circle around the target. It can fire on a target far longer than is possible with a strafing attack.

It’s an impressive piece of military hardware. Many years ago I was invited to fly aboard one of the gunships during a training mission, so I could see how it performs. We also did an aerial refueling. I can tell you that I would not like to be on the receiving end of an attack.

-- While we’re on the subject of aircraft, the Air Force plans to buy a handful of A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6 Wolverines aircraft. That’s what Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein told lawmakers during the week at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

Sure, the purchase will be small – two or three of each type, according to an Air Force spokeswoman. But the purchases would be a show of confidence for Sierra Nevada and Textron, both of which have made internal funding investments toward the Air Force's light-attack experiment.

The Air Force plans to put mini-detachments of AT-6 and A-29 turboprops at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Funding is to come from previous years’ budgets. Most of the light-attack experiment is centered on turboprops, but the Air Force is also interested in expanding that to include drones and rotorcraft. FY-20’s budget request calls for $35M to continue the experiment. (Post)

The A-29 is built by Brazil’s Embraer, but it’s partnered with Sierra Nevada and has an assembly line in Jacksonville, Fla. The Beechcraft AT-6 is owned by Textron Aviation and is built in Kansas.

-- There were two change-of-command ceremonies in Northwest Florida Thursday. In Pensacola, Capt. Christopher Martin turned over his command of Naval Air Station Pensacola in a change of command and retirement ceremony at the National Naval Avition Museum. Taking over is Capt. Timothy Kinsella, a pilot who has been in the Navy 30 years. Martin, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola for three years, also retired from the U.S. Navy after 35 years of service.

Meanwhile, in Milton, Navy Capt. Doug Rosa took command of Training Air Wing Five in a change of command ceremony at Naval Air Station Whiting Field. He assumed the title of commodore for the Navy’s largest aviation training wing. Marine Corps Col. Dave Morris relinquished command at the event after 18 months as commodore. He will move onto another assignment at the Pentagon. (Post)

Economic development
Lafayette Regional Airport, a couple of hours west of New Orleans along the Interstate 10 corridor, will be building helicopters in a building once used by Bell. A ribbon-cutting was held Saturday for the Kopter Group's new SHO9 helicopter assembly facility.

Gov. John Bel Edwards joined CEO Andreas Lowenstein of Kopter Group AG, Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, Secretary Don Pierson of Louisiana Economic Development, and other state, regional and local officials at the ribbon-cutting.

Kopter plans to create 120 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of more than $55,000, plus benefits. The company will make a $4.2 million capital investment to modify and equip the 84,700-square-foot helicopter assembly building at the 14.7-acre site. LED estimates the project will result in an additional 157 new indirect jobs, for a total or more than 275 new jobs in Acadiana and surrounding regions.

Kopter will lease the state-funded facility from the Lafayette Airport Commissions.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Kopter Group has designed, engineered and tested a series of prototype helicopters that lay the foundation for production helicopters to be assembled in Lafayette. The helicopter has room for up to eight passengers, and a payload of up to 6,600 pounds.

Suppliers include Kaman, Garmin, Parker Aerospace, Collins Aerospace, and Honeywell. The helicopters ultimately will be assembled in Lafayette with U.S.-sourced components representing at least 50 percent of the aircraft value.

Kopter will begin hiring later this year, with formal helicopter assembly activity and deliveries scheduled to begin in 2021. Production will ramp up to an anticipated annual volume of 100 helicopters by 2025. (Post)

Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Orlando, Fla., was awarded a $59.5 million contract for construction of Advanced Munitions Technology complex. Work will be performed in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 11, 2021. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity. … NCS/EML SB JV LLC, Louisville, Ky., was awarded a $12 million contract for base operations support services at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., and outlying areas. The work to be performed to include facility investment, pest control, other (swimming pools), grounds maintenance and landscaping, pavement clearance, utilities management, electrical, wastewater, water, base support vehicles and equipment, and other related services. Work will be performed in Milton, Fla. (67 percent); and outlying areas (33 percent), and is expected to be completed by March 2020. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded an $89.5 million contract to provide sustainment and engineering services in support of the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System. Additionally, this contract procures the technical expertise of field service representatives, logisticians and test support to ensure MQ-4C air vehicles and mission control and operator training systems are fully sustained and mission capable. Work will be performed at Patuxent River, Md. (45 percent); Jacksonville, Fla. (25 percent); Andersen Air Force Base, Guam (20 percent); and Point Mugu, Calif. (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2020. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, is the contracting activity. Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., performs fuselage work on the Triton. … Jacobs Technology Inc., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded a $38.3 million contract for testing for evaluation of various interactions of chemical and biological agents. Work will be performed in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, with an estimated completion date of June 23, 2020. U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Dugway Proving Ground, is the contracting activity.

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